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60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss

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2005-01-06 Metro.jpg


Mark Gatiss is, variously, a quarter of The League Of Gentlemen, author, actor, Doctor Who scriptwriter and all-round comedy genius. Born in Sedgefield, he studied at Preston University and Bretton Hall in Leeds and from tonight stars in a new BBC Radio 4 sci-fi sitcom, Nebulous.

It's set in 2099 after the world has been devastated by an unspecified ecological disaster known only as The Withering, the rules of which change every week. Various things become extinct, such as pigeons, the Dutch and the singer/songwriter.

  • It sounds as though all the useless things go.

Not always. It's a muddled future where there is lots of great technology on the one hand, but lots of other things held together with sticky tape on the other. Professor Nebulous, who I play, is a troubleshooter who works for an organisation called KENT — the Key Environmental Non-Judgemental Task Force. We have to unravel a series of strange mysteries each week. It's a doomwatch scenario. We tried to make it not just a send-up but a strong sitcom format and we try to combat every single sci-fi cliché you can come up with.

  • What's it like for you doing radio comedy?

A joy. It's a wonderful place to concentrate yourself. When you have a tightly knit bunch of people and work out how it will all pan out, it's very exciting. Plus the microphone technique is very different. When we did The League Of Gentlemen on radio, which was in front of a live audience, it was a very different thing. A little like the golden days of radio.

  • You dressed up for the League on radio: did you do anything similar for this?

We would only dress in tuxedos as that's what we used to do when we did it on stage. In the studio, it felt like we were doing the League for the BBC Home Service. We did not have character costumes. I know Steve Coogan used to dress as Alan Partridge when he was on radio but we've never tried it — well, I did on the one day for this, as we had to have some pictures done for the Radio Times. I came in my best professorial tweed. I tried to find something futuristic to set it off but I couldn't. I tried to find silver tweed but it's not available.

  • What's your favourite story from the Nebulous episodes?

I'm fond of a Doctor Who pastiche based on a Jon Pertwee episode called The Claws Of Axos, which is where a beautiful race of people turn up and promise the Earth to people but turn into horrible, vicious monsters. We did a spoof where this beautiful alien boyband turns up and the whole world falls for them. Nebulous is suspicious but wrong —they are actually really benevolent, but he blows them up anyway.

  • You've written stuff for Doctor Who. Are you a sci-fi buff?

I've written for the new series, which starts in March. I don't read science fiction, at least not the heavy stuff. It never interested me. But I am a child of the 1970s so I love TV science fiction. You could not make a kids' programme without standing stones and black magic in those days.

  • Who was the best Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee will always have a place in my heart, though Tom Baker was probably the best all-round. He had a golden age where he was untouchable but I think he probably went on too long. Almost all of them have great things about them. And I am not just saying this for political reasons, but Chris Eccleston is going to be fantastic as the next Doctor.

  • Would you fancy it?

Of course. Are you insane? There is still time. The world is full of potential Doctor Whos, just like it is full of James Bonds — though I'm going to stop talking about it otherwise it will never happen. I'll be like Gordon Brown: the great prize will forever elude me.

  • Do people ever shout League Of Gentlemen catchphrases as you walk down the street?

Yes. It's more recognition. I was in Leeds the other day and this girl came up and she would not believe it was me. I said: 'It is, I used to live in Leeds, I'm from the North and have just come home for Christmas.' She said: 'I know you look like him. But it's not you.' It was extraordinary. I ended up saying: 'It really is. Where do you think comedians go at night? We do have a life.' I think that managed to convince her, but she still looked sceptical.

  • Nebulous is on Radio 4 tonight at 11 pm. For news on The League Of Gentlemen movie, visit

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  • APA 6th ed.: Ellis, James (2005-01-06). 60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss. Metro (England) .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Ellis, James. "60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss." Metro (England) [add city] 2005-01-06. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Ellis, James. "60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss." Metro (England), edition, sec., 2005-01-06
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss | url= | work=Metro (England) | pages= | date=2005-01-06 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=60 Second Interview: Mark Gatiss | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 July 2024}}</ref>